Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

In battleground Miami-Dade County, Democrats battle each other

By 37ci3 Mar25,2024



MIAMI – In a rare election year, Florida Democrats voted Sunday to oust Miami-Dade County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Dempster from the post of state party chair Nikki Fried earlier this month.

In a nearly seven-hour meeting, Dempster and Franklin County Chairwoman Carol Barfield were removed from their elected positions by members of the Florida Democratic State Central Committee. Palm Beach County party chair Mindy Koch, also suspended by Fried, was reinstated by a 67-36 vote. The Franklin and Miami-Dade Democratic committees must select new permanent chairs within the next 45 days.

“When I was elected chairman, I promised that we will not have another election cycle like 2022,” Fried said in a statement after the vote. “We need our local parties to register voters, recruit candidates and raise money to ensure we remain competitive in 2024 and beyond.”

Dempster declined to comment on the ouster and instead referred inquiries to former Florida Democratic National Committeeman Thomas Kennedy, who called the vote “an embarrassing waste of time” and said the party’s efforts “would be better spent talking to voters like me.” to whom it passed [no party affiliation].” Kennedy recently left the Democratic Party in protest of President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

It’s the latest episode of confusion and failure in several difficult years for Miami-Dade Democrats. After improving his performance there during the Obama years, Biden’s share of the vote in Miami-Dade fell 10 percentage points in 2020, a big reason why Trump won the state somewhat comfortably despite losing nationally.

Dempster and his Miami-Dade allies lobbied central committee members in the weeks leading up to the vote, urging voting delegates to roll back Fried’s action.

In a letter obtained by NBC News and signed by Wayne Brody, vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Voter Protection Committee, Dempster allies laid out their arguments to committee members demanding Dempster’s reinstatement, arguing that his removal was inconsistent with state requirements. motivated by party charter and personal enmity.

“As some of you know, as others will guess, there is a group of members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party who are unhappy with the election of Chairman Dempster and how he has run the party since then,” Brody said. , explained that the group could try to remove Dempster with a two-thirds majority of the local party.

Instead of doing so, the letter mocked “a very public debate about the application of an unenforceable statutory provision”.

“Please be clear that I am not suggesting that Chairman Fried be in league with our dissident group. I think he was misinformed and in this case was given poor service,” the letter continues.

Dempster’s sentence was announced for the first time public statement From Fried on March 4th. Dempster and his colleagues in Palm Beach and Franklin counties were removed as part of a strategy to “get local Democratic parties back on track,” according to the statement.

“Over the past year, the Florida Democratic Party has made repeated attempts to downplay complaints that came before I was elected chairman,” Fried said. Citing ongoing unresolved issues and inconsistency, Fried warned that “the cost of inaction is very high.”

Of course, the act itself can be disruptive.

“The last thing you need is to go into an election year with primary elections in August. [is] disrupting the party as it has been disrupted,” Maria Elena Lopez, the current acting chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, told NBC News days before the vote.

After Sunday’s vote, Lopez said the vote was “a very unpleasant process.”

“All the parties that have been through this have been on their knees for at least six weeks,” Lopez said last week, adding that the party was already mired in a “doom and gloom type of narrative,” pointing to significant Republican wins in the election. in once staunchly Democratic Miami-Dade County.

“Has he done anything to improve the local party by doing this?” No, definitely not.”

A democratic stronghold is up for grabs

Republicans have been gaining momentum in South Florida for several years now.

As Democrats across the country celebrate a red wave that hasn’t come in 2022, Miami-Dade County has stood out as an example of conservative victories.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won the county by the largest margin among Republican governors in decades, all three congressional seats in Miami-Dade remained red, and Sen. Marco Rubio defeated his Democratic challenger, Rep. Val Demings, by 16 points. He lost his hometown in 2016.

Some began to wonder if Miami-Dade County would be considered a war zone for much longer.

Former Miami Democratic candidate Robert Asencio, who lost his 2022 race to Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez, believes the district is still competitive for Democrats, but there are caveats.

“With the existing playbook? With the status quo? No, – he said and added insultingly.

Asensio serves on the central committee of the Florida Democratic Party and has voted to suspend all three county chairs. “If we don’t make a difference, we have no one to blame but ourselves,” Asensio said.

Asencio says he experienced first-hand the consequences of the local party he said no to. While he acknowledges that the candidate bears much of the responsibility for the campaign’s success, he says the county party is frustrated by the lack of infrastructure and believes they share some responsibility for the losses.

For Lopez, he believes the Republican focus on community building is paying dividends.

“Republicans did it,” Lopez said of the GOP community organizing effort in the county. “Because they’re in the communities, they actually got people involved,” he added, lamenting that his party couldn’t match that kind of outreach because, due to a lack of funding, “it’s very difficult to build something on a consistent basis.”

Despite success at the ballot box, the Florida Republican Party has its own public controversy. Former party chairman Christian Ziegler was removed from his post by state Republicans as he faces allegations of rape and video voyeurism At the end of 2023. (Prosecutors have since declined to charge Ziegler, citing a lack of evidence.)

The rare move by Democrats to suspend elected county chairs comes after an already difficult week for the party in Florida. In November, the state party nominated Biden as the sole candidate for the Democratic nomination, triggering an automatic voiding of their primary under Florida law.

But that may have inadvertently led to a lower turnout for Democrats last week, which could have affected downstate races in a number of areas across the state. DeSantis called the Florida Democratic Party “the best opposition party we could ask for” and credited the canceled presidential election with conservative gains in the state.

“It completely reduced their turnout, and it gave the Republicans an opportunity to win as mayor of Delray Beach, right? It was hardly a solidly Republican area,” DeSantis said at a news conference last week.

And the Democrats He marked Tuesday night as an auspicious night for the partypoints to major victories in several other municipal elections.

Finding a foothold ahead of the general elections

Biden faces a long and contested general election rematch in 2020 against Trump, who beat Biden by more than 3 percentage points in Florida. GOP Sen. Rick Scott is also up for re-election as Democrats face a tough Senate map across the country.

Locally, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Java — one of the only remaining statewide elected Democrats — is up for re-election to serve a second term in one of the state’s most influential positions, drawing attention to the summer primary.

Levine Cava’s campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Dempster’s removal.

It remains to be seen whether the leadership changes at the county level will make a noticeable difference in how Democrats perform in Miami-Dade and statewide. Asencio noted that some critics of Dempster’s ouster don’t want to see internal party turmoil ahead of a big election.

“I’ve heard the optics argument, haven’t I? Asencio said people are worried about the optics of canceling the vote in the middle of an election year.

But he added: “If it continues to lose, what could be the worse optics?”



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